Seger Nelson/ The Phoenix News
Seger Nelson/ The Phoenix News

It wasn’t that bad...

When I told people that I was living in my car, I got a mixture of responses. Some were sad or concerned, some didn’t care at all, but they would all ask why. The short answer: affordable housing, not being able to find a place to live, but the long answer paints a different picture, mostly of stubbornness.

I refused to move into a place that was not pet friendly, because as a person with a dog, it’s kind of important. I looked hard but time ran out, and I had no place to go. I had friends offer couches, which I occasionally used, but I realized that my Jeep would be my home and that I’d embrace the adventure.

So, I took the bull by the horns. I spent more money on gas than a taxi driver, ate subway until I tried a six inch of everything on the menu, and became known as “the bathroom guy” at a Tim Hortons. I learned a lot of skills for anyone who must or wants to live in their car. Like always, crack a window and stretch in the morning, because it will feel like you slept on a board. To get up early without a phone (charging it would kill the battery), I discovered that the WestJet flight 253 landed at 8:11 a.m. and if I parked on the road by the airport, I would jump awake yelling at precisely 8:11. And finally, park where you have a view, because why not! You have that power. I learned all this about living in my car, but I also learned things about life.

“The first thing I learned, is that you don’t need as much as you think.”

The first thing I learned is that you don’t need as much as you think. I knew I had way too much stuff to keep in my Jeep, so I started asking some friends and left the less important stuff in basements and storage sheds. All I kept with me was a bag of clothes, my toiletries, a cooler full of beer, my banjo, a laptop, and of course, my bedding (and for some reason a deep fryer). I originally started with more but as time went on, I realized it took up more space than necessary, and I really didn’t need it. I have cleaned out my house since I moved in, getting rid of everything I forgot about since I packed it away, and I de-cluttered my life.

When I started my journey, I found boredom to be the biggest challenge. I would get off work and have nowhere to go and nothing to do. It hit me on the first day when I sat in a parking lot and listened to the radio for hours, with boredom hitting me in the chest; it almost hurt with the amount of nothing I had to do. After a while, it dissipated, and I began embracing the boredom. Seeing movies by myself or sitting on a bench and people watching until the sun went down. I learned my second lesson: that it’s your fault if you’re bored; there is always something to do.

Some days were worse than others. The boredom would hit, the loneliness would sink in, and I would essentially get cabin fever: I had to get out and do something with other people. I found that if I didn’t tell someone that I lived in my car, they would never know. However, I was telling people like it was a challenge, not a misfortune, because that’s what it was to me. If I didn’t tell people about my predicament, or the struggles that came with it, then how would my friends ever understand? They understood why I was grumpy or agitated the more I talked about it. It didn’t stop them from calling me an idiot because they had a couch for me, but I learned to talk about what bothers me. That was the third thing I learned, because if it was something that I couldn’t easily fix, talking about it can make support easier to get.

All these life lessons did not jump out at me like I somehow have a new deep understanding of life, they were simply the things I noticed. These life lessons don’t come just from living in your car, you can find them in any part of life, this is just how I found them. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Also, make sure you buy some air fresheners. Your car is going to stink.